Saturday, March 4, 2017

The War That Never Ends

[Mahabharata battlefield]“Everyone has to bear the actions and reactions of time as long as one is within the conditions of the material world. Yudhishthira should not think that he had committed sins in his previous birth and is suffering the consequence. Even the most pious has to suffer the condition of material nature. But a pious man is faithful to the Lord, for he is guided by the bona fide brahmana and Vaishnava following the religious principles. These three guiding principles should be the aim of life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.14 Purport)

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Friend1: You solve one problem, only to get another one right away.

Friend2: Sums up life.

Friend1: It gets a little daunting at times.

Friend2: For sure.

Friend1: I was thinking particularly of Maharaja Yudhishthira.

Friend2: What exactly about?

Friend1: The way he felt after the Bharata War.

Friend2: Oh yeah, he was pretty bummed out.

Friend1: He is the son of the god of justice, Yamaraja. Yudhishthira didn’t do anything wrong.

Friend2: And yet he still felt terrible.

Friend1: It was something like trauma, PTSD. Do you think that’s a real thing?

Friend2: Why would you ask? You don’t think mass death going down in front of your eyes will make an impact?

Friend1: I’m sure it does, but what about the issue of trauma? Is that discussed in the Vedas?

Friend2: There is the constant toggling between happiness and distress, sukha and duhkha. You could say that trauma is a more protracted form of duhkha.

Friend1: I see.

[Mahabharata battlefield]Friend2: It’s likely the world has never seen such a death toll. The Bharata War was amazing. Only a few people survived. The five Pandava brothers were victorious.

Friend1: That’s because they had Krishna on their side.

Friend2: Yes, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate objective. He is the reason to follow dharma. Whatever you do to please Him, that is righteous.

Friend1: Okay, then why did Yudhishthira feel so bad? In the Shrimad Bhagavatam we find that no one could pacify him.

Friend2: Well, that was intentional. It was Krishna’s desire to further glorify Bhishmadeva, the elderly personality respected by both sides in the war. When Yudhishthira was lamenting after the victory, Krishna brought the Pandava brothers over to Bhishmadeva, who was lying on the battlefield about to quit his body.

Friend1: I see. And then from the words of the respected person Yudhishthira felt better?

[Bhishma nearing time of death]Friend2: That is the only way to solve the mystery of life. Bhishma started by saying that everything happens because of kala, which is time. You can’t do anything about it. Lament if you choose, but time moves on. That is part of living in the material world.

Friend1: Yeah, pious people like Yudhishthira suffered distress; even after he achieved the greatest success in removing the influence of wicked characters from the world.

Friend2: The idea is to get out of the material world. Learn to cope using the weapon of knowledge. Make sure to get devotion to God the person. The bona fide representative and others following that devotion through religious principles help to keep you devoted to Him.

Friend1: Yudhishthira had that in high supply. Krishna was his cousin, after all. Vyasadeva was in the family. So was Bhishma. Are you saying that is the only way to get over trauma, which is like a war that never ends?

Friend2: Trauma can be from anything; remember that. Look at Yudhishthira’s case. There was trauma from success. The way to get over the conditions in duality is devotion. Everyone in the material world is suffering, and there is only one way out of that predicament.

In Closing:

Success even into depression to send,

Trauma like war to never end.


Yudhishthira the most pious of all,

But from regret difficulty standing tall.


Krishna’s plan, to Bhishmadeva went,

Days in hearing timeless wisdom spent.


The same for everyone escaping the way,

In bhakti no more in duality to stay.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Three Ways Vasudeva Is A Hero

[Vasudeva carrying Krishna]“Because of constant rain sent by the demigod Indra, the River Yamuna was filled with deep water, foaming about with fiercely whirling waves. But as the great Indian Ocean had formerly given way to Lord Ramachandra by allowing Him to construct a bridge, the River Yamuna gave way to Vasudeva and allowed him to cross.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.3.50)

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Married life is not easy. Both husband and wife inherit new responsibilities. The husband has to protect. In traditional Vedic culture, the father gives away the bride, essentially handing over responsibility for her future welfare to the new husband.

Protection of the wife is a serious matter, and so is care of any children that are born to the family. In this respect we can look to the example of Vasudeva, a man from an ancient time period. From the stories told in the Shrimad Bhagavatam we get an understanding of how and why he was chosen to be the birth father to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna.

1. Saved Devaki’s life with persuasive words

Both in jest and in seriousness it can be said that, like most men, Vasudeva’s troubles really started at the time of marriage. Joined in holy matrimony to Devaki, the couple were on their way home. As per tradition, they were accompanied by Devaki’s brother, Kamsa. He happened to be the king of Mathura. It was something like getting a police escort to take you home. Or maybe something like a presidential motorcade rolling through town.

En route a voice from the sky gave a warning to Kamsa. His sister’s eighth child would be his end. This occurrence is not random; there was a cause. Because Kamsa was so sinful, his death was destined at the hands of God Himself. As Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, His janma, or birth, is different. It is divyam, or transcendental.

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

Being of the asura mentality, Kamsa was extremely unsettled by this news. He decided it was best to kill his sister right then and there. This is where Vasudeva stepped in. He offered persuasive words to the brother to spare the life of the new wife. Vasudeva agreed to hand over every child born to Devaki; this way there was no reason for Kamsa to worry.

2. Keeping his word

Vasudeva was from a kshatriya family. This is the division of society that provides protection. They are like kings/administrators. Important especially at that time was honesty. If a king could not maintain his word, then he wasn’t worthy of the post. Vasudeva followed through on the promise and handed over the first child to Kamsa. It could not have been easy for the father, but the word meant everything.

The king was compassionate at the time, and so he didn’t do anything. Later, at the urging of Narada Muni, Kamsa reversed course and decided to imprison Vasudeva and Devaki. There was no taking chance; as the children were born, Kamsa immediately took the infants and threw them against a stone slab. It was really no different than today’s abortion procedures, except the killing took place out in the open, for everyone to see.

3. Carrying Krishna across the Yamuna

The transcendental birth of Krishna took place in a jail cell. That’s where Kamsa kept Vasudeva and Devaki. This was to supposedly avoid any chance of Devaki’s eighth child surviving. But the Supreme Lord only needs one percent vulnerability to take full advantage.

Krishna appeared from Devaki’s womb at midnight, while everyone on guard was asleep. To give the visual proof of His divine nature, Krishna displayed His four-handed form of Narayana to the parents. Vasudeva and Devaki then offered obeisances.

The name Krishna means “all-attractive.” The new child’s adorable vision made what happened next all the more noteworthy. Krishna asked to be transferred to the neighboring town of Gokula. This was to be done in secret, so that Kamsa would not find out.

The heroic Vasudeva rose to the challenge. One can imagine that this wasn’t the preferred option. The parents would much rather keep their darling child with them. Vasudeva escaped from the prison in the dark of night. Then he had to cross the Yamuna river, while a storm was raging. In a moment now famously depicted in paintings and pictures, Vasudeva held the basket carrying Krishna above his head as he waded through the water. Krishna was protected from the rain by Ananta Shesha Naga, who magically appeared to act as an umbrella.

[Vasudeva carrying Krishna]In devotional service, bhakti, there are surely sacrifices to make. The ways of God are always a mystery, as no one can truly understand the person who is beyond comprehension. The reward for following through on the desires of the Supreme is continued devotion, which is the perfection of living.

In Closing:

Sacrifices for higher cause giving,

In bhakti the perfection of living.


Like with Vasudeva the father,

Dealt with wife’s demoniac brother.


First against killing sister to save,

And then the first child to king gave.


Krishna most attractive son to him came,

Father carried through Yamuna in rain.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Four Ways That Failure Could Be The Best Thing To Happen

[Lord Krishna]“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

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They appear on television. They write books. Everyone knows about how rich they are. These are the successful people of the world. As failing is easy, requiring only a lack of desire to continue, success is on the other end of the spectrum. Not everyone will succeed, so those who do find success have profound wisdom to share with others.

A common teaching is that failure sometimes is the greatest blessing. The talk radio host who has millions of listeners each week got fired at least seven times over the course of his career. Some were out of his control, like a change in format of the radio station. Others were due to conflicts with personnel, not following the direction of the station manager. Yet if those firings didn’t happen, he likely wouldn’t have gone on to the huge amount of success he enjoys today.

There can be tremendous benefit to spiritual life as well. Failure is the lack of a desired outcome. When material desire, kama, goes unfulfilled, it can certainly lead to anger, frustration and loss of intelligence. At the same time, there is so much valuable benefit that can result.

1. Learn that you are not the doer

This fact should be obvious to us, but it isn’t. We’re so accustomed to shaping little things in our destiny that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Just because we decide to do something, it doesn’t mean that the desired outcome will manifest. The principle holds true for decisions both large and small.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

The Bhagavad-gita provides guidance to the person frustrated in desire. There is the teaching that the living entity is not the doer, that the three modes of material nature are actually responsible for the manifestation of results. The idea of the personal doer comes from ahankara, or false ego.

Failure can bring me to this profound truth. Within the three modes of nature are the three sources of misery. There are obstacles from within, from other living entities, and from mother nature. I want to get up out of bed in the morning, but the result is not guaranteed. Sometimes the body does not cooperate. Sometimes there is force applied by an outside entity. Sometimes a natural disaster rears its ugly influence.

2. Checks material desire

Kama is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world. Shri Krishna gave this response when asked by Arjuna why certain people tend to do bad things, even if they know better.

“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

At the foundation of sin is the desire to enjoy separately from God. Once that desire manifests, the living entity falls to the land of birth and death, reincarnating in ever-changing, material bodies. Material desire, kama, is like a fire that keeps growing in intensity the more it is fed. If material desire is checked, then there is tremendous benefit to the living entity. I keep a level-head. I understand that I can’t always get what I want. I may even stumble onto Vedic teachings, which put emphasis on jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation.

Indeed, in terms of regulating behavior the human life is meant for tapasya, which is austerity and penance. Not simply a way to punish for no reason, the controlled lifestyle is more conducive to spiritual enlightenment. Only the human being has this opportunity, and it is squandered when kama becomes the majority influence on the consciousness.

3. Approach Krishna as the distressed

Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, explains that four kinds of people approach Him in devotional service, bhakti. Each group wants something, so their devotion is not pure. But approaching God directly is always beneficial. Even if He doesn’t give me what I want, the experience is purifying.

One of the groups that approaches Him is the distressed. They know that Krishna, as the Almighty, can relieve distress. He can do anything, in fact. If there is a definition to God, that feature certainly has to be an aspect. Since I have failed, I need help. No one is better equipped at helping me than the Supreme Lord.

4. Curb false ego and change direction towards bhakti

Ahankara is the cause of me thinking that I am the doer. False ego can be cured only when there is knowledge of the proper identity. Real ego is knowing that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the total spiritual energy that is Brahman. Behavior that indicates real ego is spiritual life. The highest stage of spiritual life is service to God the person, Bhagavan.

This service often looks similar to material work. The kama gradually turns into bhakti. The difference is the beneficiary and the attitude. I offer the fruits to my action for the pleasure of someone else. I work for His benefit, not worrying about reciprocation or material condition. Whether in heaven or hell, I wish to only remain devoted.

[Lord Krishna]A unique benefit to bhakti is that desire is satisfied. Shri Krishna abandons His position in neutrality and takes an active role. The blissful, successful life of bhakti can be found through failure, through seeing the futility of material desire.

In Closing:

For failure a book no need,

Rather on success to read.


But from my loss potential for gain,

So many that route to bhakti came.


Learning modes of nature role,

Certain things out of my control.


In distress, false ego to ground,

From failure the Divine shelter found.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Five Advantages To Forgetting That Krishna Is God

[Krishna and Yashoda]“Mother Yashoda further told Krishna: My dear son, because of playing all day, Your body has become covered with dust and sand. Therefore, come back, take Your bath and cleanse Yourself. Today the moon is conjoined with the auspicious star of Your birth. Therefore, be pure and give cows in charity to the brahmanas.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.18)

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It’s baffling to say the least. At the outset the emphasis is on acknowledging Ishvara, which is one of countless Sanskrit words to describe the Almighty. Ishvara is important to know because it means a great controller. There is a controller within the body, also known as Ishvara. But God is different. He is the controller of controllers.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

There is the instruction to remember that the living entity, the individual Ishvara, is not the doer. They make the choice to act, but it is nature which must cooperate for any result to manifest. That nature can block something as basic as the decision to get up in the morning.

And of course everything in nature comes from God. Vedanta, which is the conclusion of knowledge-gathering, focuses on the Supreme Lord. At the same time, we learn that those on the highest platform of understanding forget that God the person is actually who He is. They have a different understanding. The supposed forgetfulness in that instance is intentional, as there are amazing benefits that result.

1. No more asking for stuff

You’re on a family trip. You’re excited about reaching the destination, but the travel itself isn’t so much fun. Even though your father has just purchased a new car with the comfort level of the very trip in mind, there is so much fighting. Your brother wants to sit where you want to sit. Your mother keeps picking at your father about every decision he makes.

As you are a child to the father, you have no problem asking him for things. “Stop here. I want to eat this. The hotel you chose stinks. Pick a better place.” It is only natural to have this kind of relationship. The person in power has the ability to grant desires.

And so the natural tendency is to approach God to fulfill orders. “O Lord, please come through for me this time. I promise I’ll never ask for anything ever again.” He can certainly supply any order, but this kind of relationship isn’t very blissful, to either side.

The residents of the spiritual world who interact with God the person actually forget His position as the highest living entity that exists. They interact with Him in transcendental mellows, known as rasas. Rasa is a taste, and so with each kind of relationship there is a unique kind of enjoyment.

People like mother Yashoda don’t ask anything from God. He is her son, in His adorable form of Shri Krishna. She never asks for money, beauty, wealth, or good health. She doesn’t ask to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

2. No more viewing in awe and reverence

There is still a rasa in the preliminary stage, where you view God as God. The mood is known as shanta, which can be translated as “neutrality.” It’s something like being awestruck by an important personality. You are afraid to offend them, so you worship from a distance. You know that God is great, and so you don’t want to do anything that might upset Him. He has so much power.

The mood of awe and reverence is there with Lord Vishnu, who is the expansion of God residing in the Vaikuntha planetary realm. Vaikuntha is like the real heaven; it never gets destroyed. Its very name means “free of anxieties.”

[Krishna and Yashoda]Krishnaloka is also in Vaikuntha, but it is the place where the higher rasas are tasted. Mother Yashoda is not in awe of her son. In fact, she is not afraid of Him at all. She will call out for Him to return home from the fields, where He plays during the day with His friends and His elder brother Balarama.

3. Urgency for service

Mother Yashoda, who is in vatsalya-rasa, has an urgency in service. Not only does she love her son, but she thinks He will not be able to survive without her love. She has this urgency that can never be present when there is fear of God. If you’re looking for Him to fulfill your material desires, then you won’t feel anxiety about insufficiently caring for Him.

4. Greed in service

There is plenty of God to go around. A classic example is the rasa-dance. Shri Krishna met the gopis in the forest in the middle of the night, when the moon was at its fullest and brightest in the entire year. The gopis wanted desperately to enjoy with Krishna in the mood known as madhurya. This word translates to “sweetness,” and with the gopis it means the most intimate relationship.

There were many gopis and only one Krishna, and each wanted to feel like they were with Him alone. Thus the all-attractive one expanded Himself and engaged in a wonderful dance, which has been famously depicted in artwork ever since. This kind of greed is not harmful, since the strong desire to enjoy with God is very heartwarming. This greed doesn’t take away from anyone else’s opportunity for service, either.

5. More bliss

At first you learn about God and the difference between matter and spirit. This is to escape maya, or illusion. The more knowledgeable you are, the happier you will be. With the proper understanding of the imperishability of spirit, there is no reason to fear death.

In Krishnaloka, the forgetfulness of Krishna’s supreme standing actually brings more bliss. The relationships have no comparison in the material world. All the residents are pure of heart, as that is the lone requirement for reaching that sacred land. As soon as there is a hint of desire to compete with God, to ask Him for benedictions for the purpose of continued forgetfulness, the living entity goes to a different land, where the bliss is never the same.

In Closing:

Purpose after human birth earning,

Individual and Supreme Spirit learning.


That outcomes not from me alone,

Sanction from highest authority known.


But not the end, still higher to go,

In bhakti of His Divinity not to know.


Like Yashoda with utmost love feeding,

And gopis quickly into forest night proceeding.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Two Times Even Good Guys Went Against Krishna

[Krishna and Brahma]“Your appearance as a cowherd child is for the benefit of the devotees, and although I have committed offenses at Your lotus feet by stealing away Your cows, boys and calves, I can understand that You have mercy upon me. That is Your transcendental quality; You are very affectionate toward Your devotees.” (Brahma speaking to Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 14)

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The suras and the asuras. Good and evil. Right and wrong. Pious and impious. The struggle between the two has been ongoing since before anyone can remember. In television and film the choice is depicted with the vision of two competing voices. One on each side of the individual’s head, there is conflicting counsel. “Should I do the right thing, which deep down I know? Or should I follow my senses, which will only give me short-term pleasure, sacrificing long-term benefit?”

In terms of Vedic teachings, the suras are like demigods. The asuras are simply the negation of the suras. The asuras are like demons. While the suras have good qualities, the asuras do things like lie, cheat, and steal. Most importantly, they are against God. Because of this disposition, they are repeatedly cast into different kinds of inauspicious bodies, in essence getting lower births.

“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

As God is a person, He has lila, or pastimes. In that lila sometimes even the suras make mistakes. After all, the mode of goodness is still material. Though the suras are on the right track, and while they generally acknowledge the existence of the Supreme Lord, they are prone to slipups. Occasionally, they even go against the person to whom they were previously devoted.

1. Lord Brahma

God is one, though He has different manifestations suited to the times, circumstances, and desires of the devotees, who want to connect with Him. That connection is known as bhakti, and it is not dependent on the body type. An asura can be a devotee. There is the famous Daitya prince, Prahlada Maharaja, who is the symbol of sacrifice and role model for countless pious souls. By birth he appeared in an impious family, but devotion trumps all material circumstances.

As God in His original transcendental form is all-attractive, one name for Him is Krishna. He appeared in the land of Vrindavana some five thousand years ago and had many pastimes that are described in Vedic literature. From the Shrimad Bhagavatam we find the incident of Lord Brahma stealing the cows and cowherd boys.

Brahma is the first sura. He is the creator. Think of an artist sitting at his canvas, with the main colors at his palette. He can mix those colors in different proportions to make new ones, and from there he sets about creating art.

Brahma does something like this with the species. He takes the three modes of nature - goodness, passion and ignorance - and gives body types to the conditioned souls, the jivas. In this way we understand that evolution is spiritual and not material. The soul transmigrates from body to body. As the body is material, and thus dull and lifeless, it is not capable of doing anything to create a future body.

Brahma is in charge of populating the creation. This is a very important post. Since he is the first living entity, he is also a spiritual master, or guru. He is highly advanced and very dear to the Supreme Lord. At the same time, there is the side of Brahma that is conditioned. He lives for the longest time, but he still goes through birth and death. Though mostly in the mode of goodness, sometimes he makes mistakes.

One time was with Krishna in Vrindavana. The Supreme Lord was there in the form of a beautiful youth. Krishna was the center of attention for everyone in the town, which was a rural community. Krishna and His young friends had the responsibility of taking the calves to the pasturing grounds. One time Brahma decided to play a trick on Krishna. He stole the boys and the cows, and left Krishna by Himself.

[Krishna and Brahma]There was no issue, though. The Supreme Lord is better at creating than Brahma. Krishna immediately expanded Himself to create forms that looked identical to the missing calves and cowherd boys. He and those expansions returned home and no one was the wiser. The play went on for an entire year until Brahma finally realized the folly of his ways. Krishna did not hold a grudge, and everything was fine afterwards. The incident teaches the lesson that even highly advanced souls have a difficult time understanding the potency of Krishna.

2. Indra

Brahma is in charge of creating, and Indra is in charge of the army of the suras. The demigods get their share of yajna, or sacrifice, and respond accordingly with sufficient rainfall and other material opulences. In Vedic culture there are so many religious rituals for pleasing the suras. Even the occasion of buying a new car calls for a puja, or worship. It is offered to Vishvakarma, the architect of the demigods.

“In charge of the various necessities of life, the demigods, being satisfied by the performance of yajna [sacrifice], supply all necessities to man. But he who enjoys these gifts, without offering them to the demigods in return, is certainly a thief.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.12)

One year the residents of Vrindavana skipped the annual puja intended for Indra. The foster-father, Nanda, listened to the advice of young Krishna. Instead of worshiping Indra, they would take the already prepared paraphernalia and worship the nearby Govardhana Hill instead. This really shouldn’t have been an issue. The people were innocent, after all, following their heart, which was fully attached to Nanda’s son.

Indra’s jealousy got the better of him. So incensed at the perceived insult, he retaliated with devastating rainfall. The storm was so bad that it threatened to wash everyone away, after they had just worshiped Govardhana Hill. Krishna again proved that He is stronger and smarter than the demigods. He lifted the just worshiped hill and held it up as an umbrella for seven straight days.

Like Brahma before him, Indra ended up being quite remorseful. Again, Krishna did not hold a grudge. The incident was instructional. Worship of the Supreme Lord in devotion, without material motivation, has no equal. In full surrender, the residents of Vrindavana were protected from all potential sinful reaction that could have come from missing demigod worship. This is the promise of bhakti. Krishna protects the devotion of His devotees.

In Closing:

Suras and asuras since beginning of time,

One demigods, other as demons defined.


Though devoted remaining vulnerable still,

Gods like Indra in Vraja rain to fill.


And Brahma the cowherd boys stealing,

Afterwards for forgiveness appealing.


Supreme Lord holding a grudge not,

Highest love for devotees He’s got.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Is There Something I Can Do Besides Chanting

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The nine different processes enunciated by Prahlada Maharaja, who learned them from Narada Muni, may not all be required for the execution of devotional service; if a devotee performs only one of these nine without deviation, he can attain the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.23-24 Purport)

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Friend1: The dark age of Kali.

Friend2: Quarrel and hypocrisy.

Friend1: Everything upside down.

Friend2: Dharma becomes adharma and vice versa.

Friend1: In this age there is no other way…

Friend2: Except the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend1: There seems to be great emphasis on that. Chanting. Either to oneself, japa, or out loud with others, sankirtana.

Friend2: The emphasis is there because of Kali Yuga. The conditions especially make it difficult for other kinds of spiritual practice to be effective.

Friend1: In the other ages there is meditation, religious sacrifice, and deity worship, right?

Friend2: Yes. Interestingly, any of the processes will work in any of the ages.

Friend1: Oh. I didn’t know that.

Friend2: Yeah, but some are better suited for specific time periods.

Friend1: Okay, I’m glad you mentioned that. I was wondering to myself what happens if a person is not so interested in chanting.

Friend2: Any person or a devotee?

Friend1: Someone who is interested in bhakti-yoga. They understand the concept of the afterlife, how there is a difference between matter and spirit. They believe in God, for sure. They even accept the idea that the different religions of the world merely represent various stages of understanding of the Absolute.

Friend2: Like the pocket dictionary compared to the full dictionary.

Friend1: Exactly. Living within these conditions, what if a person isn’t so keen on chanting?

Friend2: They just don’t want to do it or they would rather do something else?

[Prabhupada harmonium]Friend1: Let me give you an example. You have one person who listens to kirtana all day. They watch videos online of people chanting the holy names in song. Some of these songs are bhajans, which are a little different than kirtanas.

Friend2: Right, slightly different. Not as much call and response. People generally are seated during the performance. In kirtanas, there is greater crowd participation.

Friend1: Then you have another person that likes to read Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and the Ramayana. They may like to talk more about God and devotion to Him. They are not necessarily following the recommendation that chanting is everything in this dark age.

Friend2: And you’re wondering if the second person is worse off than the first?

Friend1: Not even just the second person. Anyone who doesn’t spend the entire day chanting. Basically, are there ways to be engaged in bhakti-yoga without specifically doing one thing?

Friend2: Oh, of course. Prahlada Maharaja mentions nine different processes when speaking to his father, the evil King Hiranyakashipu. The first two are hearing and chanting. The person you described listening to the songs is doing both of those, in effect.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: You have to remember that consciousness is the key. Consciousness is everything, in fact. You could be sitting outside during the day and staring at the sky and still be perfectly Krishna conscious.

Friend1: Really?

Friend2: Of course. You see the blue sky and it reminds you of the complexion on the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You see the clouds and appreciate how they give some relief from the scorching rays of the sun. You understand how they turn into rainclouds every now and then, sustaining life on earth. You appreciate the sun, also, for providing heat and light. You connect everything to the Divine, who is ultimately responsible. You are sitting around, apparently doing nothing, but you are swimming in the ocean of nectar that is bhakti.

Friend1: Wow, that’s great. Not that you’re recommending I sit around and do nothing, but the description is helpful. What about outside opinion, though? People will always ask, “How many rounds are you chanting?” They want to know which programs you attend.

Friend2: And if anything is insufficient in this regard, they will consider you to be in maya, or illusion.

Friend1: Exactly! Wow, you can read my mind.

[prasadam offering]Friend2: The short answer is, “Who cares?” Progress is at the individual level. You have your spiritual guide to help you, either through their direct association or the access to their timeless wisdom of instruction. Hearing and chanting are the most effective, though. They help to bring about the proper consciousness and then maintain it. But yeah, you could be doing something as simple as cooking and still be perfectly Krishna conscious. There is not just one path towards success.

In Closing:

If chanting by me not done,

Is then hope for success none?


What about opinion of others to say,

That in illusion I’ve lost my way?


Bhakti on consciousness depending,

Even bliss from simply at sky gazing.


Hear, chant, just shastra read,

Or cooking the Supreme Lord feed.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Four Of The Greatest Successful Underdogs Of All Time

[Haridasa Thakura]“When something is arranged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one should not be disturbed by it, even if it appears to be a reverse according to one's calculations. For example, sometimes we see that a powerful preacher is killed, or sometimes he is put into difficulty, just as Haridasa Thakura was. He was a great devotee who came into this material world to execute the will of the Lord by preaching the Lord's glories. But Haridasa was punished at the hands of the Kazi by being beaten in twenty-two marketplaces.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.16.37)

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Though it happens all the time, people are still surprised. On paper, it is no contest. One team had vastly dominated their opposition during the season. It wasn’t close. The other team is lucky to be in the final. They had to squeak by in their last game. The odds-makers, who try to be as fair as possible in order to earn a profit, predict that the game will be a blowout. The favored team should win by a lot.

But sometimes the upset happens. The underdog comes through. That success gives hope to others who are in a similar situation. Transitioning to the realm of spiritual life, there have been many instances of people in tough situations overcoming odds. The source of their strength is the link in consciousness to the Divine. This link is known as yoga and it is more powerful than anyone can imagine.

1. Haridasa Thakura

The different ones always stand out. It’s just the way of the world. If everyone in class wants to eat pizza and you have an allergy to dairy products, it’s not something you can really hide. People will find out. Then you will have to deal with being different.

Food preference is one thing, but what about chanting Sanskrit words day and night; especially when such a practice is forbidden for people residing in that area? The saint Haridasa Thakura got the name namacharya by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This means “the person who leads by example on the chanting of the holy names.”

The problem was that Haridasa came from a Muslim background. You weren’t supposed to go chanting just any names. Indeed, those names are identical to the person they represent, and that person has a spiritual form. That is another prohibition. Don’t you dare consider that the Almighty has a spiritual form, for then you might actually benefit from your worship.

[Haridasa Thakura]Haridasa was more than just an outcaste in the community. There was physical force applied to get him to stop chanting the holy names. He was physically beaten in public; made a spectacle of in order to dissuade others. He survived due to the link to the Divine. One of the greatest underdogs, he had the special benediction of quitting his body in the arms of Lord Chaitanya, the golden avatara.

2. Prahlada Maharaja

The most powerful king in the world against his five-year old son. In such a conflict, the boy might stand a chance if the father was lenient. After all, a natural bond is there. The father should be affectionate, especially if the child is innocent. Prahlada’s crime was loving the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He was so dedicated in bhakti that he would talk about devotion and Vishnu to his friends at school during recess.

Prahlada faced a fire pit. He faced a herd of elephants. He was thrown off a cliff. He was attacked with deadly weapons. He survived the attacks for the same reason that Haridasa did. The link in yoga was too strong. Eventually the wicked father was the one who succumbed, defeated at the hands of God Himself in the form of Narasimhadeva.

3. Hanuman

A vast ocean separating land from an island. A few wicked characters obstructing his aerial journey. A city filled with man-eating ogres who were ready to pounce at the first sighting of an emissary of the Supreme Lord Rama. A distressed princess who would have trouble trusting anyone around her. The time constraints set by the leader of the Vanaras, Sugriva.

Hanuman faced all these obstacles in his bhakti. Towards the end of the mission assigned to him, it was a one man show. There was literally no one there to help him. And his foe was quite formidable. Their leader had taken away the princess Sita in secret. Ravana was too afraid to fight Rama one on one in battle; therefore he resorted to trickery.

Hanuman succeeded. He found Sita, which was extremely difficult. Then he was able to convince her of the authenticity of his cause. He proved to her that he was a representative of her husband. Then Hanuman set fire to Ravana’s city on the way out. He was successful since he had guidance from within; Shri Rama helped him.

4. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

A seventy year old man leaving for the United States for the first time, on a cargo boat no less. No money, barely any contacts, the unpleasant surprise of the brutal winter awaiting him. Shrila Prabhupada was following through on the order given by his guru to spread the teachings of the Vedas and devotional service to the English speaking world.

Who would listen to his message of hope and light coming from the East? Who would agree to give up bad habits like eating meat, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex? Who would agree to chant the holy names each day for a fixed number of rounds? Who would be inspired to chant those holy names congregationally, in what is known as sankirtana?

Proof once again arrived that the Supreme Lord offers direct help for those who are sincere in their bhakti. Material life offers no such assurances. The most powerful can fall and the most fallen can rise. The tides shift like the changing of seasons. The only guarantee is that if one surrenders to the Supreme Lord, abandoning all varieties of dharma, they will be saved from any potential sinful reaction. More importantly, they will get to continue to live the blissful life of devotion.

In Closing:

Small against stature of enormous size,

Sometimes underdog known to rise.


In bhakti also the powerful defeated,

Against humble in yoga trance seated.


Like Haridasa Thakura to market taken,

Prahlada by wicked father forsaken.


Prabhupada to unknown land going,

For seeds of bhakti plant sowing.